UES120-B02.jpg (69705 bytes) New York Architecture Images-Upper East Side

Duke House
Now The New York University Institute of Fine Arts
(originally James B. and Nanaline Duke House)


Horace Trumbauer


1 East 78th Street




French classical Neoclassical






Residence of J.B. Duke, at Fifth Avenue and Seventy-eighth Street, New York, NY, 1909 In 1909, Trumbauer, with the help of his gifted assistant Julian Abele, designed one of his greatest urban townhouses, a residence for James B. Duke. The wealthy Duke was an associate of Peter A. B. Widener, the founder of American Tobacco Company, and the benefactor of Duke University. Like many of Trumbauer's most impressive commissions, the Duke mansion was conceived in a mid eighteenth-century French classical style. According to Trumbauer scholar Frederick Platt, it is based on architect Etiene Laclotte's Hôtel Labottière, constructed in Bordeaux in 1773. Dignified, noble, and grand, the Duke mansion, which is now occupied by New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, is closely related stylistically to the Philadelphia Central Library building. Central Library Building of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Perspective from southwest, 1916. Jules Guáerin Notably, Trumbauer commissioned famed architectural illustrator Jules Guerin to execute perspective renderings of the two related buildings, the Duke mansion and the central library building. Guerin's beautiful watercolor of the library building now hangs in the Central Library's Executive Offices.
In the 1870s, upper Fifth Avenue opposite Central Park was a shantytown, but by World War I, it had become "millionaire's row," lined with mansions built by the captains of industry. Constructed to last for centuries, these urban villas soon gave way to apartment buildings, as the wealthy chose the ease of apartment living over the costs and constraints of palace life.  
Some commentary by various authors;

Andrew S. Dolkart, "Touring The Upper East Side, Walks in Five Historic 
Districts" (The New York Landmarks Conservancy, 1995):

"This rare example of a freestanding mansion in New York city bears a 
close resemblance to the 18th Century Hôtel Labottière in Bordeaux. In 
a manner typical of French Neo-classical architecture, the Duke House 
has a projecting central entrance bay with sculptural embellishment 
(notably in the pediment at the roofline) flanked by more austere 
wings. Horace Trumbauer ran the business side of his large 
Philadelphia-based office, leaving building design toothers. This 
house, like many of Trumbauer's projects, was probably the work of his 
chief designer, Julian Francis Abele, one of the first African-American 
architects in America. James B. Duke's rise from a poor North Carolina 
farm boy to capitalist entrepreneur epitomizes the phenomenon of the 
self-made man. Duke's fortune was derived from tobacco; he was the 
founder and president of the American Tobacco Company and several 
related firms that together virtually monopolized the industry. Part of 
his fortune was used to found the North Carolina university that bears 
his name. The 1915 New York State Census records that Duke lived in 
this house with his wife and two-year-old daughter Doris, two relatives 
and thirteen servants - three men and ten women - most of whom were 
immigrants from Scandinavia. Nanaline and Doris Duke gave the house to 
N.Y.U. in the late 1950s. The Institute has received an award from the 
New York Landmarks Conservancy for the superb adaptive reuse of the 

Christopher Gray on the "Manhattan Town Houses of Horace Trumbauer" in 
the August 25, 2002 edition of The New York Times previewing the 
publication the fall of "American Splendor: The Residential 
Architecture of Horace Trumbauer," a book by Michael Kathrens: 

"In 1890, he completed Peter A. B. Widener's 110-room Palladian-style 
Lynnewood Hall, set on 150 acres in Elkins Park, Pa. Then Edward J. 
Berwind, the coal magnate, hired Trumbauer for his big limestone house 
in Newport, R.I. That house, the Elms, is sublime, writes Mr. Kathrens, 
his first french neo-classic house, executed with a suave knowledge of 
18th-century French design. While Trumbauer was developing his practice 
in giant country houses, some New York City commissions arrived, many 
from Philadelphians. The first two were in 1904, both on the Upper East 
Side. John and Alice Drexel built the cool, reserved limestone at 1 
East 62nd Street from Trumbauer's design....In the same year, I. 
Townsend Burden, who owned on iron foundry, built 2 East 92nd Street - 
replaced by the present apartment house at 1107 Fifth Avenue....In 
1909, George J. Gould, son of the financier Jay Gould, finished a 
Trumbauer house on the northeast corner of 67th Street and Fifth 
Avenue; this has also been replaced....In the 1920's, Trumbauer 
continued with his grand country houses, like the 100,000-square-foot 
Whitemarsh Hall, built for Edward T. Stotesbury, a finance, outside 
Philadelphia in Springfield....Trumbauer's last grand building in 
Manhattan, the 40-room Herbert N. Straus residence at 9 East 71st 
Street, survives....Trumbauer died in 1938, but his office, under its 
head designer, Julian Abele, lasted until the 1950's, although the 
market for grand French-style houses was by that time extremely lean. 
Later, Trumbauer's reputation fell into the shadows for several 
reasons. The sophisticated French houses at which he excelled seemed 
irretrievably irrelevant at a time of aggressive modernism....Also, the 
presence of Mr. Abele, an African-American who joined in the early 
1900's, attracted somewhat wishful stories that Trumbauer could not 
draw and that Abele was really the architect in the firm, when, in 
fact, there is little internal evidence of how the design process 
really worked. Henry Hope Reed, in the introduction to Mr. Kathrens's 
book, calls this 'politically correct,' and notes that 'the very 
presence of Abele only underscores the extraordinary statue of 

John Tauranac, "Elegant New York" (Abbeville Press, 1985):

"In the 1900s, Duke owned a 2,500-acre farm in Somerville, New Jersey, 
a former Vanderbilt 'cottage' in Newport called 'Rough Point,' and a 
winter retreat in Durham. He owned a five-story stone stable at 30 West 
66th Street and he was living at 1009 Fifth Avenue [see The City Review 
article]. When Henry C. Cook died in 1905, Duke became interested in 
buying the house that had been in the vanguard of Upper Fifth Avenue's 
development and a conspicuous landmark since it was built in 
1883....Cook's executors put the house on the market at $1.5 million, 
and Elihu Root, acting for the heirs, accepted Duke's offer of $1.25 
million in 1909. Duke took a $700,000 loan and commissioned C. P. H. 
Gilbert to prepare plans for remodeling the house, but then he changed 
his mind. Duke abandoned the expensive remodeling and decided to tear 
down the Cook residence and build a new house. The fireplace and mantel 
that had been imported from Italy at $15,000 fetched $300; the oak 
panels that had cost $55 apiece were sold for three dollars each. The 
demolition company said that the Cook residence was the best-built 
house ever torn down in New York City."

Henry Hope Reed "Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York" (Dover 
Publications Inc., 1988):

"For his model, Trumbauer turned, as he so often did, to an 
eighteenth-century French model - in this instance the Hôtel Labottière 
in Bordeaux. (It was this unabashed appropriation to French designs 
that so annoyed his fellow architects.) What Trumbauer did seems simple 
enough: He changed the proportions and a few details. The changes may 
appear simple, but few architects have possessed Trumbauer's ability to 
achieve a design that is both fitting for a New York street and 
superior to the original source of inspiration. The facade is severe, 
its chief distinction being the unusual windows on both floors. Between 
the windows are large, flat panels. A horizontal member in the form a 
of a deep stringcourse separates the two floors. To grasp how important 
this course is, try to imagine the facade without it. ...The severe 
wings make the entrance, marked by its own sobriety, all the more 
effective. Rusticated sides establish the double recess of the doorway 
and second-floor bay A double pair of columns, Doric at the entrance 
and Scamozzi Ionic above, provide an accent....The net result is 
monumentality in what is, for New York, a low building."